Cool technologies, marketing challenges and seeing new friends at HR Tech 2009

While introducing the "Cool Technologies for HR" session at HR Tech yesterday, Bill Kutik said something to the effect of, "Even though I picked these companies to showcase based on their cool-factor for me and HR, I'm sure I'll hear from five other companies who will tell me they should've been included as well."

And he's right - there was a bevy of cool technologies at this year's show too numerous to cover, including those in the session:

These shows are always such a blur from beginning to end - non-stop sessions, schmoozing and selling - but this has got to be one of the best HR Tech's to date, even with decreased attendance and moving the show to the smaller subterranean vault of McCormick Place.

Backtrack to the fact that on Tuesday we had five boxes of HR Vendor Phonebooks shipped separately to our hotel, each one weighing 50 pounds. We got them to McCormick in a cab and then inside the lobby, completely on the other side of where the expo took place. Imagining the back-breaking work of carrying these broke our backs. So instead, we discovered hand-carts for sale at FedEx Kinko's (now FedEx Office - didn't know).

Best $100 we ever spent at a show.

Booth traffic was light most of Wednesday (the first day of the expo) with the exception of the post-lunch spike that surged with HR decision makers. There did seem to be an inordinate amount of "Expo Only" folk cruising the lanes indiscriminately.

Thursday's traffic improved dramatically and most HR suppliers we spoke with told us that there were more "shopping" conversations happening.

Good news for the HR marketplace.

At our booth, we had the opportunity to talk to many HR buyers, and although many were there to find solutions to automate and increase efficiencies in recruitment, hiring, performance management, workforce planning, etc., many for the first time, the prevalence of white noise interfering with strategic need is worse than I would've imagined. I'm hearing from too many unhappy customers of systems just aren't making the grade - crippling UI, costly and cumbersome integrations, etc.

In fact, if you didn't catch Steve Boese's HR Happy Hour last night, I highly recommend you do. Mark Stelzner (@Stelzner), founder of Job Angels, made the point that Talent Management has become this catch-all of cookie cutter solutions; it was difficult to discriminate between the companies featured in the Talent Management Shootout. Many buyers are wary of smaller more nimble software firms and if they'll be around in five years or will get gobbled up or just go bye-bye.

One of our clients told me recently "you don't get fired for hiring IBM" - but in the long run you may be in for one hell of a bumpy ride.

Read The HR Capitalist's analysis of the shootout (@kris_dunn). won by the way. Congratulations to them!

This a big marketing problem HR software firms today - product differentiation, configurability and looking bigger than they are if they aren't, because bigger means stable brand to executive management (when confronted by a cougar, make yourself look big). As I mentioned in a previous post, there's a big bunch of business to be had in HR technology; there are millions of companies that still have yet to move from paper-based workforce management to automated systems.

Marcom differentiation must include increased thought leadership through best practices content and of course you gotta have highly configurable solutions for companies big, and those particularly much smaller.

That's where social media has fast become the catalyst to share content and build powerful relationships that can make (and break) your brand. Check out our new eBook Conversation Starters if you haven't already. Looking forward to working more with Sage on their social media marketing strategy.

But you know what the greatest highlight of all for me was? No amount of cool or cookie-cutter HR tech means a thing without the people behind it, around it and buying it.

A special thank you to my incredible HRmarketer business development team at the show - Jonathan, Jocelyn, Rita and Andy. I'm pretty much a smiley goof without them. Andy's Vibram 5 Finger shoes were quite the hit.

A special thank you to all our clients at the show! If you ever get a chance to hang with Mr. Joseph Impastato and the crew from nowHIRE along with the HRchitect gang as we did, then do it. Good times. Great seeing my other favorite client EmployeeScreenIQ at the show as well. (Hey, you're all my favorite clients, don't you forget that.)

Thank you to TalentDrive for having us all at their party Wednesday night!

Of course, great seeing the always irreverent and consummate networker William J. Tincup and his band of merry marketing men, joining us in the fight to save suppliers from really bad marketing, one rockin' content campaign at a time.

Lastly meeting all the HR blogger thought leader rock stars I've met in social media circles was the biggest highlight for me - @SteveBoese, @marenhogan, @Devoted2HR, @TrishMcFarlane, @TriumphCIO, @CallmeSlouch, @Kris_Dunn, @thelance, @ChareeKlimek, @JCorsello, @sarahw79, @samhiggins - the list of good folk goes on and on.

You made our HRmarketer Tweetup the bestest networking time of all!

Alas, I didn't get meet Laurie. Next time Punk Rock HR girl. Next time.

See you at HR Southwest in a couple of weeks!

Post by Kevin W. Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

Labels: , , , ,